'A new beginning': Pagans celebrate total solar eclipse

 
 

While Americans gazed in wonder as the moon blotted out the sun, Pagans marked the occasion in their own unique way.

WOOLDRIDGE, MISSOURI -- For the Pagan people of the Oak Spirit Sanctuary, Monday's total solar eclipse was a spiritual experience as well as a spectacle.

Located in the Bible Belt of the United States, the Oak Spirit Sanctuary is one of the largest spaces for Pagan practice in mid-Missouri. Those who practice Pagan worship are a small minority and are often fearful of judgements and repercussions due to misconceptions over their rituals and beliefs.

Pagan beliefs focus on human relationships with the earth. Nature and the seasons have significance.

In Pagan worship, a solar eclipse is seen as the union of the sun and the moon. Pagans call on those who witness the solar eclipse to look into the dark parts of themselves.

The sanctuary drew hundreds of campers due to the unique nature of their events, as well as their location - Wooldridge is on the path of totality and, as a rural area, is far from light pollution.

Pagans believe eclipses are times for communing with their gods and goddesses due to heightened energy during such a rare cosmic event.

A solar eclipse represents a time for personal transformation, as well as transformation for the world at large.

To Pagans, the solar eclipse is seen as a new beginning and a sign of growth.

 

Originally published with Al Jazeera English.

 
 Pagans camp on the property of Oak Spirit Sanctuary the night before the total solar eclipse on Sunday, August 21, 2017. 

Pagans camp on the property of Oak Spirit Sanctuary the night before the total solar eclipse on Sunday, August 21, 2017. 

 Pagans gather in a circle around a fire before a Thelemic ritual to the goddess of the sky, Nuit, at Oak Spirit Sanctuary on Sunday, August 21, 2017. The goddess calls on those who worship her for personal growth and expansion of consciousness. The pagans believe eclipses are times for working with their own gods and goddesses due to the heightened energies because a total solar eclipse is a rare astrological event to witness.  This photograph was taken with a long-exposure, allowing the night sky to be seen layered over the group surrounding the fire.  

Pagans gather in a circle around a fire before a Thelemic ritual to the goddess of the sky, Nuit, at Oak Spirit Sanctuary on Sunday, August 21, 2017. The goddess calls on those who worship her for personal growth and expansion of consciousness. The pagans believe eclipses are times for working with their own gods and goddesses due to the heightened energies because a total solar eclipse is a rare astrological event to witness.

This photograph was taken with a long-exposure, allowing the night sky to be seen layered over the group surrounding the fire.
 

 Standing in the ritual circle, pagans look to the sky before the start of the total solar eclipse at Oak Spirit Sanctuary in Wooldridge, Missouri on Monday, August 21, 2017.

Standing in the ritual circle, pagans look to the sky before the start of the total solar eclipse at Oak Spirit Sanctuary in Wooldridge, Missouri on Monday, August 21, 2017.

 P.J. Kemper points to the painting he has started in honor of the eclipse. Each element in his painting represents the eclipse or an element of spirituality in relation to the event.  

P.J. Kemper points to the painting he has started in honor of the eclipse. Each element in his painting represents the eclipse or an element of spirituality in relation to the event.
 

 P.J. Kemper jumps and points to the sun as the total solar eclipse begins.  Kemper is an artist and self-identifies as a burner. A group of burners camped at Oak Spirit Sanctuary to celebrate the eclipse. Burners follow a lifestyle relating to Burning Man, living or traveling to spaces temporarily and creating art and music wherever they go.   

P.J. Kemper jumps and points to the sun as the total solar eclipse begins.  Kemper is an artist and self-identifies as a burner. A group of burners camped at Oak Spirit Sanctuary to celebrate the eclipse. Burners follow a lifestyle relating to Burning Man, living or traveling to spaces temporarily and creating art and music wherever they go. 
 

 Frater Dominion meditates in preparation for the total solar eclipse. Many members of the pagan community find meditation an important part of getting in touch with themselves and finding an inner peace.  

Frater Dominion meditates in preparation for the total solar eclipse. Many members of the pagan community find meditation an important part of getting in touch with themselves and finding an inner peace.
 

 Rachel Hermes, Hollie Hermes and Johnny Carcaz lay in the meadow and stare at the sky to view the eclipse. The group came with the burners and have come from Kansas City and Manhattan, Kansas.

Rachel Hermes, Hollie Hermes and Johnny Carcaz lay in the meadow and stare at the sky to view the eclipse. The group came with the burners and have come from Kansas City and Manhattan, Kansas.

 Don Breuer and Patrick Bollinger drum as the solar eclipse gets closer to reaching totality. Drumming and chanting is an important aspect of pagan worship and can be seen in many rituals and celebrations.

Don Breuer and Patrick Bollinger drum as the solar eclipse gets closer to reaching totality. Drumming and chanting is an important aspect of pagan worship and can be seen in many rituals and celebrations.

 Phoennix Norton raises her arms to the sky and sings as the sun reaches closer to the point of totality

Phoennix Norton raises her arms to the sky and sings as the sun reaches closer to the point of totality

 From left, Lisa Bruce looks at the eclipse as Kendal Gravitt and Bryant Biek kiss under the sun after witnessing totality. All of them have been involved with Oak Spirit Sanctuary since 1991. Gavitt and Biek met and were married at Oak Spirit over 20 years ago.

From left, Lisa Bruce looks at the eclipse as Kendal Gravitt and Bryant Biek kiss under the sun after witnessing totality. All of them have been involved with Oak Spirit Sanctuary since 1991. Gavitt and Biek met and were married at Oak Spirit over 20 years ago.

 Priestess Kerry Lynn sings and dances in celebration and praise before the eclipse reaches totality

Priestess Kerry Lynn sings and dances in celebration and praise before the eclipse reaches totality

 Kerry Lynn embraces Nicole Blank moments before the eclipse reaches totality.

Kerry Lynn embraces Nicole Blank moments before the eclipse reaches totality.

 Nicole Blank yells to the sky as the sun disappears behind the moon and totality is reached at Oak Spirit Sanctuary in Wooldridge, Missouri on Monday, August 21, 2017. Blank describes herself as an eclectic witch, meaning she does research on all aspects of paganism but does not subscribe to a specific doctrine.

Nicole Blank yells to the sky as the sun disappears behind the moon and totality is reached at Oak Spirit Sanctuary in Wooldridge, Missouri on Monday, August 21, 2017. Blank describes herself as an eclectic witch, meaning she does research on all aspects of paganism but does not subscribe to a specific doctrine.

 The moon is perfectly aligned with the sun as totality of the eclipse is reached at Oak Spirit Sanctuary in Wooldridge, Missouri on Monday, August 21, 2017. The clouds parted a few minutes before totality, allowing the spectacle to be viewed, and then clouds covered the sun directly after. "If that wasn't magic, I don't know what is," said pagan Samantha Walker of Hannibal, Missouri.  

The moon is perfectly aligned with the sun as totality of the eclipse is reached at Oak Spirit Sanctuary in Wooldridge, Missouri on Monday, August 21, 2017. The clouds parted a few minutes before totality, allowing the spectacle to be viewed, and then clouds covered the sun directly after. "If that wasn't magic, I don't know what is," said pagan Samantha Walker of Hannibal, Missouri.